Food

Introducing Italian Empanadas at Astoria’s Mr. Tasty

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Mr. Tasty wants to be your snacky friend.

Wandering back from a bar last evening around 10, a friend and I stumbled on a new mobile vendor called Mr. Tasty. “He reminds me of Barack Obama,” said my companion, noting the resemblance of the cartoon visage of Mr. Tasty to the president.

The build-out of the truck on the vacant lot was strange.

While most food trucks stay mobile, and park at the most wildly trafficked corners, Mr. Tasty was located mid-block on a dark and obscure stretch of Astoria Boulevard. The truck itself seemed semi-permanently installed in a sort of stockade, which included a small outdoor seating area, very un-New Yorky. We examined the tires of the truck, and they seemed as if they’d never been driven on.

The menu didn’t seem particularly ambitious, nor was it ethnically identifiable, but it included something for every ethnic group in the neighborhood: hot dogs, buffalo wings, the sweet fried plantains called maduros, Philly cheesesteaks, grilled chicken sandwiches, Greek salads, wraps, chili fries, sweet potato fries, and Shanghai egg rolls. “What could that possibly be?” my friend asked of the latter.

The chalkboard specials seemed wonderfully cheap.

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Probably not Mr. Tasty himself, but one of his minions.

Having gone on a Astoria bar-hopping expedition that included several demi-meals, we were intrigued by the truck, but only slightly peckish. The trio of empanadas seemed like just the ticket, at three for $5. When we ordered them, the truck attendant warned us, “We only have two kinds, meat and cheese,” then continued, “and it will take a while.”

Unphased by his warning, we ordered two cheese and one meat. All had to be fried from scratch, so it took 10 minutes. The cheese tasted like plain ricotta, the filling fine-grained, the outside glistening with oil and nicely browned. The meat version tasted Italian, too, featuring ground beef, peppers, and onions. Not scrumptious, but pretty good nonetheless, and a good pit stop on a stretch of Astoria Boulevard when your main other option is sit-down Mexican. Italian empanadas. Who knew?

Hot out of the fat!

Inside the cheese empanada, a surprise ricotta filling.

Ground beef flavored with peppers and onions makes this emapanada taste like a street fair.

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